Psychology prof’s research links intelligence and worry

April 23, 2015

Alex Penney’s work garners media attention around the globe

IMAGE_STORY_Alex_Penney2When psychology professor Dr. Alexander Penney published research showing a connection between intelligence and worry, it made—and continues to make—a big impression on media outlets around the world.

Alex, just a couple of months away from celebrating his first full year at MacEwan University, conducted this study while he was at Lakehead University in Ontario. There, he led a team of researchers that surveyed more than 100 students, finding that those who generally worried more also tended to score higher on a verbal intelligence test.

Read more about Alex’s research into worry and IQ: BBC Future, British Psychological Society Research Digest,, Huffington Post,

Alex is continuing to collaborate with his colleagues at Lakehead University, researching how worry might be connected to emotional intelligence, and he’s taking his research on anxiety in a new direction with his students at MacEwan.

In January, Alex opened the Worry and Health Anxiety Lab, building on work he’s done that explores how to treat excessive worrying.

“People can wait six or nine months to see a specialist, so the length of waitlists is a big problem when it comes to mental health,” explains Alex, whose doctoral research examined how primary care practitioners (e.g., family doctors and nurses) might use short 10- to 20-minute treatments to help patients manage their worry. The results of that work are still to be published, but Alex says the treatments appear to have a significant impact that lasts a period of months.

Publishing that research, looking at opportunities to use the approach in the community, and working with students to explore health-related anxiety from several different angles is what Alex will be focusing on in the coming months and years.

This summer, Alex and the students in the Worry and Health Anxiety Lab are planning to conduct a study to see how procrastination might be related to different anxiety disorders and health anxiety.

“As soon as I arrived at MacEwan, I had students coming to talk to me about how they could be involved in research,” says Alex. “Students have some really interesting ideas and I love having an active research lab that allows them to explore their ideas.”

More interesting news from our psychology faculty’s classrooms and labs:

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